USC FOOTBALL KEY DATESFirst practice: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (open to public) First scrimmage: Aug. 11, 3:45 p.m. Season/SEC opener: Aug. 30, at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. Home opener: Sept. 8, East Carolina, 12:21 p.m.
COLUMBIA — South Carolina reserve quarterback Tanner McEvoy was arrested Sunday and charged with speeding and driving after consuming alcohol while younger than 21, a misdemeanor, according to the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Sherriff’s department.
USC policy states that any athlete who is arrested is automatically suspended. McEvoy, 19, is a redshirt freshman from Hillsdale, N.J. Entering preseason practices, which begin Friday night, he is listed as the fourth-string quarterback, behind junior Connor Shaw, sophomore Dylan Thompson and senior Seth Strickland.
USC is also welcoming freshman Brendan Nosovitch — the No. 22 dual-threat quarterback in the country, according to Rivals.
USC has a commitment for the Class of 2013 from Connor Mitch — the No. 14 pro-style quarterback in his class and the No. 245 overall recruit. Of USC’s 18 commitments, Mitch is the second-highest rated overall recruit.
McEvoy will presumably compete with at least Thompson, Nosovitch and Mitch to replace Shaw in 2014. McEvoy arrived at USC last fall as the No. 11 recruit in New Jersey and the No. 25 athlete, according to Rivals.com.
Ward will blitz
Ever since he took over as USC’s defensive coordinator before last season’s Capital One Bowl, Lorenzo Ward has talked enthusiastically about how he wants his unit to be more aggressive in its blitzing than it was under Ellis Johnson, who is now the head coach at Southern Mississippi.
Johnson didn’t like to blitz with more than his defensive line, because he didn’t want to leave the back end of his defense too vulnerable in pass coverage. Ward will blitz more with his linebackers, and he now has a bigger spur outside linebacker, DeVonte Holloman, who will help in those efforts.
Ward believes his defensive players are more effective when they don’t have to sit back, read the offense and make decisions on their own.
“We definitely want to be in attack mode,” Ward said. “I feel like we’ve got a bunch of young men that they’re better players when you tell them where they’re going (before the play).”
Ward believes USC’s defense, which ranked third nationally last year in fewest yards allowed per game, will thrive when its players rely more on athleticism than technique.
“I just think that unless you’ve got a total group that has been together for a long period of time, then you can play a lot more technique and fundamentals,” he said. “But I think we’re built on speed. So it’s not a group that — even though they’re good enough, I think — can just sit there and play technique and beat people.”
Receiver Roland could make impact
One of the two biggest recruits in USC’s incoming freshman class, along with running back Mike Davis, is wide receiver Shaq Roland, the fourth consecutive South Carolina Mr. Football landed by the Gamecocks. Roland is one of three well-regarded freshman receivers, along with Jody Fuller and Kwinton Smith.
The Gamecocks have some uncertainty at receiver. Their leading returning pass catcher is slot receiver Ace Sanders (29 catches and 383 yards in 2011). DeAngelo Smith and D.L. Moore are atop the depth chart at the other two receiver spots. Smith has four career catches, Moore has 32, including just eight last season.
“Kwinton has been here I think both sessions of summer school,” head coach Steve Spurrier said. “I think Jody and Shaq came for the second one. Shaq is probably a little bit behind, just learning the offense. Shaq’s probably got a little bit farther to go than maybe Kwinton just because he’s been here a month longer.”